Lewis Hamilton has warned team-mate Nico Rosberg – and, by extension the entire Mercedes team – that he is prepared to risk suspension by refusing to settle for second place in his F1 title battle.
The two drivers came together for the third time in five races when they made contact on the last lap of Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix, prompting Mercedes bosses to call an emergency meeting to impose new 'rules of engagement' which, while not constituting team orders, reportedly carry 'deterrents' to avert further incidents.
Hamilton had already made it clear that he was not going to rein in his competitive nature over the remaining twelve races, particularly as he continues to trail Rosberg in the championship standings, and the three-time world champion reiterated his determination to take a fourth crown by coming from behind this season. Asked, after topping both Friday practice sessions at Silverstone, whether he would be prepared to go wheel-to-wheel with his team-mate and rival, Hamilton was unequivocal in his answer.
“Absolutely!” he maintained, “I'm always going to go for the gap. Like Ayrton [Senna] would always say, 'if you don't go for the gap, you are no longer a racing driver'. I will never
stop being a racing driver.”
Hamilton's bid for a fourth British Grand Prix win at Silverstone got off to the best possible start on Friday, topping both 90-minute sessions while Rosberg was forced to sit and watch as problems with his W07 denied the German a chance to set a lap in FP2.
“The car is definitely feeling good, but we've definitely got some work to do with the balance,” he reported, “What is really difficult is to pinpoint exactly where the target is from corner to corner - because of the wind, the target is moving everywhere. You've got a couple of similar high-speed corners but, from one corner, you have oversteer and, another, you have understeer, then another one is balanced, so it's difficult to know where you have got to change the car. But we'll work hard to do it. We've managed pretty much every other race we go to.”
Hamilton admitted that he had not had a chance to really dissect a possible improvement from the addition of new wings on the W07 for his home race, but acknowledged that, despite sitting out the afternoon session, Rosberg would not lose out too much when it came to data for the rest of the weekend.
“Most likely [he'll] just listen to all the comments I would have to say but, fortunately, I don't really say much, so he's just listening to thin air really,” the Briton joked, “It depends how good the driver is but, personally, I don't see [missing FP2] being much of a problem for Nico. Obviously, in the second session, we didn't get to see the pace that Nico would have, and I don't necessarily think my single lap was spectacular, but my long-run pace was good so hopefully I can take that into Sunday.”